Dystinct Journey of Candice Mason

Issue 21: Dystinct Journey of Candice Mason

Candice Mason's inspiring journey from struggling with dyscalculia to becoming a successful entrepreneur who has turned her challenges into strengths.

Zahra Nawaz
Zahra Nawaz

Table of Contents

This story was published in Dystinct Magazine Issue 21 May 2024.
Candice Mason is the Founder of Mother Cuppa [mothercuppatea.com]

Dystinct Journey of Candice Mason | Founder of Mother Cuppa

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Candice's Dystinct Journey

Candice's Dystinct Journey

Today, Candice Mason is at the helm of Mother Cuppa, a flourishing entrepreneurial venture, and manages a successful transport business with her husband valued at over three million dollars. Her adept skills and keen business acumen have driven these ventures to new heights. However, Candice's path to success has not been without its hurdles. Candice spent much of her early years unaware that her persistent struggle with numbers was due to dyscalculia, a condition that would later provide a reasonable explanation for her difficulties.

Candice's difficulties with math began early. Reflecting on her childhood, she vividly remembers the first signs that she was struggling more than her peers, "My mum always had to help me with reading and maths and explain things to me. I also really struggled when it came to telling the time!" Candice's struggle with telling time persisted until she was 16 when she finally figured it out by switching to a digital watch.

I hid my insecurities well.

Despite her struggles, Candice managed to mask her insecurities with humour. "I was a bit of a clown, always mucking about and trying to get people to laugh. I hid my insecurities well," she shares. Candice found a clever but unconventional way to cope with her math homework. "I would give my friend my maths homework book in the morning, and she would do the work for me in exchange for tubes of Smarties. We still laugh about it now."

While Candice had supportive friends, she felt let down by her teachers. "They left me feeling like I was thick. I don't recall getting any support or anyone asking anytime to find out why I didn't understand or progress," she shares. This lack of support from her teachers left a lasting impact on her self-esteem.

You can only try your best!

Fortunately, Candice had a loving and supportive family who played a crucial role in her emotional and academic development. "I'm really lucky; I come from a family that is full of love," she shares. Her father, who worked away often, emphasised the importance of education and independence. "He would always say, 'You can do anything you put your mind to.' My Dad had two daughters, but he taught us to do DIY and fix cars to ensure we could always be as independent as we needed. My mum always said, 'You can only try your best.' I have tried to unpick this as an adult, and I didn't know what the measure of my best could be. I often feel that I'm not good enough or don't try hard enough if I'm not successful or find things challenging. My mum did also teach me, that in life, you just need to be happy," shares Candice.

Towards the end of primary school, Candice's life nearly took a different trajectory. "I was a ballet dancer from a very young age, maybe 4. I loved it and spent half my weeks dancing. I didn't know I was very good at it despite always being picked for lead roles and passing exams well," she recalls. Her talent did not go unnoticed. One day, her ballet teacher pulled her parents aside to suggest that Candice apply for a scholarship at a local dance school. The scholarship exam was rigorous, involving a creative art presentation, musical performances on the piano and violin, a ballet and tap showcase, and written exams in math, English, and science. Despite excelling in the exam, her parents decided against enrolling her at the dance school. They were concerned that the demanding schedule of dancing by day and studying academic subjects by night would be too overwhelming for Candice, who was already struggling. The decision was made for her, and Candice ended up attending a local secondary school, a decision that left her feeling crushed and often wondering how different her life might have been.

I was absolutely crushed.

Candice's secondary school years were a mix of highs and lows. She enjoyed making friends and had a supportive form tutor during her first year. "I enjoyed the first year of school, making friends. I don't recall much about it academically, but I had the most supportive form tutor, who was lovely." However, things changed in her second year when her form tutor left, and she began to feel misunderstood and unsupported. "Math classes were like what learning Japanese might be! It just didn't make any sense to me. I didn't like my new form tutor; I was horrid to him. I didn't get picked for any top sets. I was always at the bottom." Despite these challenges, Candice found that she genuinely enjoyed a few subjects. "I enjoyed the languages and I recall loving the speaking exam for English; it was a debate, and I was good at that."

By the time GCSEs approached, Candice had lost interest in academics altogether. "Honestly, when it came to GCSEs, I didn't care. By that point, I was a wayward teenager into all sorts of nonsense. I skipped school often, didn't study at all and just rocked up and wanted it over with," Candice admits. This lack of interest was reflected in her results, "I remember the day I got my results and called my mum. She was trying so hard to sound proud, but I could hear how disappointed she was."

She was trying so hard to sound proud, but I could hear how disappointed she was.

After her GCSEs, Candice faced a critical decision about her future. Her form teacher, believing university was out of reach, suggested an apprenticeship in Early Years. "You can't stay for A-levels; you'd never make it into university; we've found this nice little apprenticeship looking after children," she was told. Not particularly bothered by this direction, Candice took up the opportunity. Having always juggled multiple jobs as a teen, she was used to working hard and embraced the apprenticeship.

Candice discovered a real knack for working with children. "I loved my apprenticeship and had a real knack with children. I loved chatting with them and teaching them; I enjoyed their company," she reflects. Her career progressed as she took on roles as a nanny and later in nurseries and pre-schools.

I loved chatting with children and teaching them, I enjoyed their company.

As her life circumstances changed, so did Candice's career needs. She met James, her husband, at a pub through some mutual friends and fell in love with him. While pregnant, Candice recognised the need for a more stable income. "You couldn't run a household on a nursery wage," she explains. So, she fast-tracked a level 4 qualification in childcare to advance her career. After having her daughter, she decided to run a childminding business from home. This decision allowed her to balance work and family life while continuing her passion for child education. She was given full funding to pursue an Early Years degree, which she thoroughly enjoyed. "I loved learning; it was mostly theoretical studies, and I found it fascinating to learn how the brain worked and developed. This is the first time I enjoyed studies," she shares.

Candice's career continued to evolve as she took on more responsibilities. She began working full-time at a further education college, teaching students about childcare. However, she faced a significant hurdle to advance further: she needed to pass GCSE Math or Functional Skills Math to complete her teacher training degree. This requirement brought back all her old anxieties about math. "It was a very small group of us, and I literally didn't understand any of it. It took me soooo long, it really made my head hurt, and I just wanted out," she recalls..

However, this time around, Candice had a lot of teachers around her who were willing to help. "I was given some one-to-one support," she notes. The college suggested she take the Functional Skills Math test, and her teacher even noted that she might have dyscalculia. Although she was never formally diagnosed, Candice felt no need for an official label. "For me, knowing that I 'tick all the boxes' (e.g., struggling with time, budgeting, money, and direction) is enough," she shares.

She remembers studying daily on the BBC Bitesize website and was granted extra time for the exam. Despite all the support, it was still a tremendous challenge. Through sheer determination and the support of her colleagues, Candice managed to pass the exam and went on to become an Early Years teacher. "I literally scraped the barrel, but I didn't care. I was glad it was over with!" she shares.

I was glad it was over with.

Candice's experience with dyscalculia profoundly influenced her teaching career. Her personal struggles with math made her particularly compassionate and empathetic toward students who faced similar challenges. "I would say it has made me very compassionate and empathetic; this is a great quality when working with young children and teens," she reflects.

She focused on recognising and nurturing the strengths of her students, believing that the school system's emphasis on exams often overlooks individual potential. "There are lots of things that somebody can be, and the school system can prevent people from achieving their full potential because of all the exams. Success in set exams doesn't always and shouldn't influence success in life," Candice emphasises.

Success in set exams doesn't always and shouldn't influence success in life.

Candice's journey took another significant turn when she joined her husband in managing his family's transport business. "My husband has a family business, and when his mum was taken ill, he tried to run it himself. By this point, I was working as a director on work-based learning," she explains. Seeing the need for support, her husband asked Candice to take a sabbatical from her job to help organise the business and modernise its operations. "When I arrived, everything was done on paper—it was archaic," Candice recalls. This move marked the beginning of her foray into entrepreneurship.

To effectively contribute to the business, Candice needed to pass a transport manager qualification. This exam presented significant challenges, particularly with questions about sorting out bus route times, diesel usage, and time differences in Europe. "I was allowed to take a clock into the exam because without the magnetic clock, I believe I wouldn't have been able to pass," she shares. Candice notes that she is now much more confident in asking for necessary accommodations, a crucial skill as the leader of a big business.

It may take me a really long way around, but I always get there.

Over the years, Candice has developed several strategies to manage her difficulty with numbers. She now works with a bookkeeper to handle the detailed numbers, as she excels at seeing the big picture but struggles with everyday math. "I get bored very easily of the small details; it doesn't interest me. I also need people to be really patient with me and explain the more complex matters like writing a financial business plan," she explains. Her husband is another crucial source of support, helping her with math tasks, though their collaboration isn't without frustrations. "He helps me with maths, but we can both get frustrated when he sends me an Excel spreadsheet and I mess up his work—I still don't understand Excel!" Candice explains.

Despite these challenges, Candice doesn't let dyscalculia hinder her hobbies or daily life. In hockey, she often has to inform the referee about her difficulty conceptualising distances like five yards, but her teammates are understanding and supportive. Generally, she doesn't feel the need to discuss her math difficulties, relying on effective workarounds. "It may take me a really long way around, but I always get there," she shares. Candice has come to terms with accepting herself and finding support from her family, including her 19-year-old daughter, who sometimes helps with math. Candice believes that with the right support, anyone can find a workaround for their challenges. "Surround yourself with people who know more than you do," she advises.

In October 2022, Candice launched Mother Cuppa, an entrepreneurial venture inspired by her personal experiences and passion for natural remedies. The pandemic's impact on her family business made her realise how much she loved running a business and her desire to create something of her own. Her journey into herbal teas began in her late teens when she was diagnosed with endometriosis. The treatment led to a medically induced but reversible menopause, but now, in her 40s, she finds herself entering early menopause. This challenging period led her to explore natural remedies to ease her symptoms.

She turned to herbs to address issues like sleep, energy, anxiety, endometriosis, and perimenopause. Embracing her passion, Candice trained as a tea sommelier with the UK Tea Academy. This training and her personal journey inspired her to create Mother Cuppa. "I wanted to use my knowledge from training as a tea sommelier and my interest in plant power to help other women and establish something that fits with my values and that I 100% believe in!" she explains.

Candice is particularly proud of finding her own path in life. "If only someone had told me being an entrepreneur could have been an option for me," she reflects. Her journey into entrepreneurship with Mother Cuppa showcases her resilience. She didn't want to rely on her husband to handle all the accounts, so she did the groundwork and found out all the pricing herself. "It takes me much longer than it would most people, but I am determined to try, and I get to the answers." While her husband may tidy up her plans, Candice knows that her hard work and dedication drive the success of her business.

Having dyscalculia has always influenced Candice's work and life, but not always in negative ways. "Honestly, I don't really think about it. I guess because I didn't find out until I was older, I already had my own ways of working things out. It is a bit of a family joke about how bad I am, and they laugh and won't let me make a payment or tot up the restaurant bill," she shares. Despite the challenges, Candice believes you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it.

Candice Mason

Founder of Mother Cuppamothercuppatea.com | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok

Candice Mason

McKenna Gutierrez

Extracts from Dystinct Magazine

Extracts from Dystinct Magazine

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